Development of Etched Glass in the United States (continued)

Intro by Mark Nye
Issue No. 274 - February 1996

M.W. Gleason of the Gleason-Tiebout Co. presented this paper titled "Etching of Glass and Its Development in the United States." While not directly related to operations at the Cambridge Glass Co., it does give insight into the history of etching and the processes used by most, if not all, glass companies during the last years of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th century. As space permits, this paper will be reprinted in its entirety. The first portion appeared in the December 1995 Crystal Ball. As you read this second portion, do not forget this was written ninety years ago. - Mark Nye

Etching of Glass and Its Development in the United States (continued)

The pattern represented a wicker basket filled with flowers, and on account of the fine lines which constituted the reeds the lower part of the globe permitted a larger amount of light to pass through than was the case with any etched globe previously on the market. The wavy lines had an effect very much like the prismatic globe, in lengthening or spreading the gas flame - at least it had that appearance.

Hydrofluoric acid was at that time very expensive, costing 35 cents a pound and to immerse the globes required considerable quantity. To economize in acid, these articles were put on spindles with rubber washers between them to keep the acid from the inside, and the spindles made to revolve in shallow troughs, the depth being just enough to clear the globes. The squat blanks cost $2.65 per dozen and the crown blanks $3.50 per dozen. When etched, they sold for $10 and $12 respectively. As a comparison between the prices at the time and present (1905) I will add that the squat globe etched is now sold as low as $2.20 per dozen and the crown globe etched at $2.75. So much for competition, molds and improved methods.

In 1878 the firm of McFaddin & Hatton, of New York, started etching in a small way. The E.P. Gleason Mfg. Co. brought suit for infringement of its patent, but before the case could be tried the defendants discontinued that branch of their business. At about the same time the Boston and Sandwich Glass Co., of Sandwich, Mass., started in the etching line, catering principally to the Boston trade. In 1880 Tietz & Stenger took up etching in Philadelphia, continuing until 1883 when they were succeeded by W. H. Buckner & Co. In 1884 H. J. Merchant, of the same city, attempted some etching, but did not remain long in the business. These concerns confined their line principally to squats, crowns and cylinders, in deep or bright etchings but many of the Baccarat patterns so long in use had been superseded by original designs produced by American talent.

Meanwhile the business of the E. P. Gleason Mfg. Co. had grown to such an extent that it became necessary to look for enlarged quarters. The variety of new shapes had become so numerous that the company experienced great inconvenience in obtaining a supply of blanks, and the advisability of manufacturing its own glass was considered. In January 1883, the business of the J. B. Siebel Co., which had operated the old Dorflinger plant at Greenpoint, Brooklyn, was purchased, and in July of the same year the etching department was transferred to that place. Here the concern was enabled to expand. A cutting shop was at once established, and many new effects in lighting goods were produced. It put on the market a line combining etching and rich cutting which readily sold at prices ranging from $12 to $30 per dozen, and having no competition in fine goods was enabled to employ a considerable force on this class of work. A line having fancy crimped tops was manufactured, also globes in spot, twist ribbed and diamond, etched in floral and other artistic designs. Later it brought out the "pearl etched," so called. This style of etching was first produced in England in fancy colored globes, but on account of the high cost found a limited sales here. The work is done by first etching the pattern in outline, afterwards painting or protecting the figure with a resistant, and immersing in acid a second time. This gives the body a satin finish effect, the figure standing out in relief. The "jeweled" etched it brought out later. This is similar to the pearl etched, but differs in that portions of the flowers or leaves show in the clear.

Gillinder & Sons used white acid for roughing as early as 1873, and at the Centennial Exhibition in 1876 exhibited paper weights and other articles finished in this manner. In 1880, they took up the etching of globes and shades, and in later years have been larger producers of these goods. They early brought out a large variety of etched patterns in combination with figured pressed, in imitation of the etched and rich cut, and so near to the real article as to make it difficult for the ordinary purchaser to note the difference. They have also produced a fine line of domes and electroliers in etched and rich cut, and their line of etched gas and electric globes, like all the goods made by this house, is of the highest order.

In 1887 Rohrbacher & Hormann, of Philadelphia, who had a large business in sand blast goods, took up etching. As many of their sand blast patterns were printed from plates, it was quite natural for them to take up this work. The successors of this firm, E. Hormann & Co., continued to manufacture etched goods up to 1900, when they went out of the glass business.

Gill & Company, of Philadelphia, also started in the etching branch in 1887, taking over the plant of W. H. Buckner & Co. Up to this time the white acid or light etched globes had been marketed only in a limited way, but Gill & Co. made these goods a feature of their business. Practically all globes and shades were then made by the off-hand process. The Eastern factories, which controlled the business, were employing from twenty to thirty shops each in making off-hand globes. Gill & Co. and Gillinder & Sons at about the same time produced the pressed plain blanks, in bowl, bell, cone and tulip shapes, which revolutionized the business in cheap globes; the low cost of the pressed white acid practically driving out of the market the cheap engraved "mud box" work, so called, and sand blast globes. Gill & Co. have continued in the regular line of etched globes, and are now making a great variety of shapes and patterns, also many fine designs in combination with figured pressed.

In 1888, J. J. Murary added an etching department to his plant. Like other houses, hand-made globes were used, but later more attention was paid to what is known as the molded "new process," the globes being blown in molds, top ends fire-finished, and most of his blanks for etching were made by that method. Many attractive patterns were produced by him which were sold principally to the jobbing and department store trade. The J. J. Murary Co., which now operates the plant is also manufacturing a fine line of etched ware.